In the Garden:
Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
November, 2010
Regional Report

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Ornamental cabbage will thrive in a sunny winter garden. The foliage resembles peony flowers. It's edible too!

Put Your Garden To Bed? No Way!

The first week in November is a good time to start planning for spring. Spring blooming bulbs such as daffodils, tulips and narcissus can be planted in the ground or in containers. Select a site under a deciduous tree so that the bulbs will have sun when they are ready to bloom.

Containers planted with spring blooming bulbs should be kept damp but not wet, in a cool location, and protected from hungry squirrels and rats with a tight fitting cover of chicken wire. Remove the wire when you begin to see the tips of the foliage emerging from the soil. I always incorporate a hand full of superphosphate fertilizer into the soil when planting bulbs.

Annual beds should be changed to colorful winter blooming flowers and overgrown, or tired, containers replanted with cool season annuals, such as pansies, stock and calendula, and winter blooming perennials, such as primrose, Helleborus and Aquilegia. I like to add interesting foliage plants to my containers. Try ornamental grasses such as Japanese Blood Grass (Imperata cylindrica 'Rubra'), Feverfew (Chrysanthemum parthenium), Coral bells (Heuchera) or licorice plant (Helichrysum petiolare). Asparagus densiflorus 'Myers' is one of my favorite plants to incorporate into container plantings. The variety in texture will make an interesting frame for your colored annuals. Another favorite cool season annual is Nemesia. Plant it in hanging pots, as a bedding plant or as a colorful accent to trail over the side of containers.

In the garden, warm season ornamental grasses should be left "as is" so that you can enjoy their interesting seed formations and also feed the traveling birds when they pass through later in the season. Cool season grasses should be cut back now, prior to their natural growing season. Provide the cool season plants with a handful of fertilizer to stimulate new growth.

If you have room in your garden, may I recommend planting an Osmanthus fragrans? It's an evergreen perennial with the common name of sweet olive. Osmanthus is a large, tidy, shrub which will eventually grow to 16 - 20 feet. It can also be trained as a small tree. In the winter it is covered with tiny, visually inconsequential but amazingly fragrant flowers. One small tree will perfume an entire neighborhood. I want to emphasize that this is a tidy shrub. It's not messy, doesn't drop fruit or leaves and has a lovely shape without pruning.

Daphne odora, another winter-fragrance shrub, is a handsome plant with variegated foliage, but too fussy for me. Some people have good luck with it, while most don't. Perhaps planting Daphne high in the soil will prevent it from the sudden failure if is famous for.

Late fall is also time to select and plant camellias and heathers (Erica). Both are blooming now, so you can choose the exact color required for your garden. Both prefer well drained, rich soil. Both also require protection from sun if you live in a hot area.

Winter gardening is my favorite. I love the cool weather and watching the migrating birds as they stop to rest. The cedar waxwings should be arriving soon, to dine on berries of cotoneaster and pyracantha, with the robins right behind. It's almost enough to make me forget that the holidays are right around the corner....


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